Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Wedding anniversary today

September 18th, 2007. Today is our third wedding anniversary.

We're celebrating by going to dinner at Serafina. Gracie is hanging with the Crumpet.

It's been a fantastic 3 years since that snowy morning on Mount Baker. Let's see - we moved to Seattle, traveled to China & Mexico, and bought a house.

Oh yeah, and Baby Crumpet :-)

Looking ahead. This weekend we're having dim sum with the Smiths and dinner w/t the McQuinns. In a few weeks we go to Boston for Katherine/Nathan's wedding. Thanksgiving it's Mazatlan in Mexico. Holidays in Boston with family. We're just figuring out where to go for our 2008 vacation. Top choices are New Zealand, Vietnam or France countryside (Big A's uncle has a house-share)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Back in Beijing

(pictured - Chris, Gracie & Mrs Wood at the now defunct Forbidden City Starbucks)

Back in Beijing for 3 days attending a book fair and adventures.

Adventure #1 - Nightclub. The buyer for Amazon China, Gino, invited me & my friends to the hottest club in town - Angel Club (also linked to Club Queen and Cutie Club). This is where the young, rich & restless hang out.

You first notice the parking lot - porsche, mercedes, hummer, range rovers. This is unusual in a country where the avg yearly income is under $4,000. I give the info to the straight-from-prada-catalog security dude w/t the ear bud thing, and were whisked inside to Gino's private table. The club is set-up like this. Raised DJ platform on one side (4 DJs, always female) with giant video displays behind them. Rectangular bar in the middle, surrounded by dance floor & stools. The back, in 3 different raised levels, are the private booths, each with surrounding sofas that looks like fuzzy dice with tables in the middle, where the in-crowd sit around playing dice and drink a mixture of Chivas & green tea (taste is mellow with a hint of sweetness; the bitter alcohol taste is completely gone). Music is mostly hip-hop with the occasional dance remix. Crowd is decidedly hotter-than-thou. Guys in designer t-shirts, jeans & styled hair. Girls in skimpy top, short skirt and fancy shoes. All constantly checking their latest Korean mobile phones. Gino's friends are all into car racing (tricked up STI, Audi, EVOs), good looking and fun-loving. During the course of evening the boys were constantly joined by different female companions stopping by to say hello, and most were introduced to us as either models or actresses. It was certainly an unique experience in Beijing.

Adventure #2 - Karaoke, or, the national past-time of China.

My friend Mark from China Publishing Group invited us to this place called Party City. If the name suggest some tacky thing in Queens think again. Party City is a super structure with the latest modern design and high-tech to the till. We went to a floor of private rooms where for the next 5 hours drank cheap Chinese beer and sang toons by Elton John, The Beattles and James Taylor while Mark fired up the Chinese power ballads. The highlight was when Mark brought up music videos of Chinese communist party propaganda. The videos ranged from songs & images glorifying the Long March during the War of Liberation (otherwise known as when the communist defeated the Nationalist in '49) to scenes of the People's Liberation Army doing martial arts and assembly ballistic missles. My colleagues from New Zealand, Canada & the States were very amused.

Adventure #3 - clandestine suit buying in a dim lit garage.

Acting on a tip from Lance, the director of BEA, my buddies Scott, Jim and I go off in search of the mythical Tailor Ma. Once we tracked him down by mobile phone, he bought us into this rather dark & dingy basement garage where in the back of his suburban he produced reams of fabric samples. As he hooked us deeper and deeper into promises of tailor made suits and dress shirts at the cost of a lunch in NY, Tailor Ma spoke constantly into his mobile and cars would occasionally show up where the driver would hand over more fabric samples. In the end we bought 2 suits, 3 sports jackets and 8 dress shirts and handed over wads of cash. All that was missing was some flying pigeons in slow-mo. Scott will pick up the goods after I leave Beijing so as of this writing I do know whether I really got a good deal or have been completely ripped off. All of us certainly are going to remember this experience.

Crumpet does Mt Rainier

Baby Crumpet took us to climb Mount Rainier.

It was our first time there and it was a spectacular blue sky day to go up on the mountain. We rented a cabin at nearby town Ashford, from there it's a just a short drive up to the Paradise visitor's center where we started hiking the trails. The majestic mountain lives up to its hype. What makes these trailers different than, say Baker, St Helens and Hurricane Ridge where we also hiked this summer is that when you're hiking Rainier you can see the mountain from just about every angle. It's like an inspirational beacon that keeps calling you. As a bonus are the meadows and wild flowers.

People watching was another sport all-together. The beginning trails being relatively flat, some parts even paved, drew a wide range of visitors. On one end of the extreme are the climbers with gears, some carrying snowboards, as they make their way up to base camp in the afternoon to get ready for the midnight summit ('cause ice is hardest; round-trip is about 7 - 8 hours). On the other end are mostly immigrants, some with baby strollers (!) and totally inappropriate shoes. Good time was had by all.

We had time to visit other areas in Rainier, especially loved the Longmire area with their old growth forest. We loved Rainier and can't wait to be back in the Fall when the trees change colors.

Crumpet digs clams

Baby Crumpet took Jack & I digging clams up in Birch Bay (near the Canadian border) where Jack lives.

I got it say Crumpet did all the work while we sat around & watched.

We bagged about 10 giant clams, which Jack cooked up and served with home-made korean hot paste & some Coronas. Delicious!